Matthew’s Easter Episodes (Matthew 27:62 – 28:15)

Matthew’s is the only Gospel that discloses the financial details of Judas’s deal with the chief priests to deliver Jesus to them. When he asked, ‘What will you give me?’ they agreed on ‘thirty pieces of silver’ (Matthew 26:15). (Mark 14:11) and (Luke  22:5) simply tell us that they promised him ‘money’. Did Matthew perhaps frame his narrative under the influence of his former mind set as a tax accountant (Matthew 9:9)? Hardly, for in his previous paragraph, in telling of the devotion of the woman who poured her precious ointment on Jesus’ head, he only mentions in general terms its value as being ‘very expensive’ (Matthew 26:6), this time leaving (Mark 14:5) and (John 12:5) to estimate that its resale price was ‘three hundred denarii’ or more. No, the main reason for detailing the thirty silver shekels was his fascination throughout his Gospel with the many Old Testament prophecies and illustrative hints at various episodes in the Jesus story (see Matthew 1:22-23; 2:5-6, 15, 17-18, 23; 3:3-4; 4:13-16; 8:17; 12:17-21, 38-41; 13:14-15, 35; 15:7-9; 21:4-5, 15-17, 42; 26:31, 54-56; 27:9-10), including Judas’s remorse, his returning the blood money, and its re-use in the purchase of ‘the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers’ (Matthew27:3-10; Zechariah 11:12-13) – thus incidentally implying that the temple officials only evaluated Jesus’ life as that of a household slave (Exodus 21:32).

            [] Episode One (Matthew 27:62-66) – High Security

‘The chief priests’ (who, as Sadducees, did not believe in resurrection, Matthew 22:23-33) joined forces with the fundamentalist ‘Pharisees’ (who did) to prevent any trickery by the disciples to try to remove the body from the tomb and then spread a rumour that he was alive again. Their two buzz words about Jesus were ‘imposter’ (‘that liar’ [the Message], for claiming to be Messiah) and ‘fraud’ (‘the final deceit’ [the Message], that he’s risen again). Their planned safeguard was threefold: a massive stone rolled over the tomb’s entrance, the imperial seal upon that stone (to break which was a capital crime), and military sentries to guard both seal and stone.

            [] Episode Three (Matthew 28:11-15) – False Publicity

Now, who are the liars? Their worst fears happened so that they now decide to perpetrate a massive lie – ‘Let’s say that his disciples really did raid his tomb’! Significantly, only ‘some of the guard’ reported the missing body – the rest had gone ‘Absent With-Out Leave’, but not permanently. When the Jewish authorities had agreed to the lie, paid them a substantial bribe (of an undisclosed sum) to be shared no doubt with the deserters, and guaranteed that they’d not be punished for (supposedly) sleeping on duty, even if that ‘fact’ reached Pilate’s ears.

            [] Episode Two (Matthew 28:1-10) – The Living Reality

‘A great earthquake’ (only recorded in this Gospel) did not loosen that stone. It was ‘an angel of the Lord’ who ‘rolled [it] back and sat on it’, and who therefore caused the quake! His dazzling apparel and glowing face caused the guards to tremble and faint – a foretaste of the day of Jesus’ return (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  He (i) showed up from heaven; (ii) shifted the stone; (iii) sat on it; (iv) shone resplendently; (v) spoke to the bewildered women; and (vi) sent them on a mission.

While the blatant lie and big cash bribe satisfied the guards, the two Marys were commissioned by the angel, and then by their risen Master himself, to ‘Go and tell his disciples/my brothers to go to Galilee,’ for there they would meet Jesus. * He’s alive!  so we can avoid lying and bribery as we spread the good news to his lost brethren!

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